Part 2: Marijuana as Medicine

 

Marijuana Part 2: Marijuana as Medicine

Sam Kwok

Despite the growing use of medical marijuana, under the federal jurisdiction, it is still classified as a schedule 1 drug. Twenty-nine states have legalized medical marijuana; however, each state has its own legislature that creates lists of preapproved conditions that may be treated with marijuana. Though, when comparing these lists, one may notice that the severity of the conditions ranges drastically. For example, California, a state known to have very loose marijuana regulation laws, has a list that include more common conditions such as anorexia, anxiety, depression, migraines, or just “any debilitating illness …deemed appropriate by the physician.” New Jersey, which is considered a moderate state when examining marijuana regulations, has a list that excludes anxiety and depression, but includes more severe illnesses including terminal cancer, muscular dystrophy, and terminal disease where the physician has determined there is less than a year of life left. Despite the differences in severity, under the US law, medical marijuana patients, dispensaries, and government officials that do not enforce the federal laws are all criminals to some extent.

In the early 70’s Nixon began his famous “War on Drugs” campaign, which intended to keep the American public safe from hard drugs. One of these drugs, was marijuana. Almost 50 years later, the same laws are still upheld and little research has been done to update the data. Technology and scientific procedures have updates, so research and laws should be updated as well.

From the little data we do have, we know that CBD, the non-psychoactive ingredient of marijuana has medicinal effects. It is linked to the healthy release (unlike opiates) of dopamine and serotonin which are the “happiness” chemicals in our brain. This may be the reason why in some states, marijuana is used as a treatment for anxiety and depression. Children who suffer from severe forms of epilepsy have shown to have dramatic improvements with the introduction of CBD. The number of seizures that a child has may decrease drastically when treated with CBD oil. Marijuana is also known to help people undergoing chemotherapy treatment. It may not only help patients to regain their appetite through the reduction of nausea, but can also help reduce pain and reduce the body’s urge to regurgitate. Despite the potential of medical marijuana, further research is still barred by the government. Some suggest that the easiest way to completely legalize marijuana is if states vote to create a 28th amendment which would legalize marijuana, but that would still require ¾ of all states to vote in favor. Currently, 30 states have some laws which allow for marijuana to some extent (includes medical and recreational), but 8 more still need to reform for the possibility of a 28th amendment. The nation’s capital, Washington DC has already decriminalized the drug as well. With the current administration, marijuana will not be legalized federally. But with more and more people becoming aware of such issues, even the government will not be able to stop people from getting the medicine they need. It is clear in which direction the US is heading towards in this debate and it is only a matter of time until medical marijuana is legalized in all 50 states.

If you are struggling with substance abuse or any other kind of addiction, the psychologists, psychiatrists, and psychotherapists at Arista Counseling and Psychiatric Services can help.  Contact the Bergen County, NJ or Manhattan offices at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920.  Visit http://www.acenterfortherapy.com for more information.

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Neuroplasticity

Neuroplasticity

By: Leah Flanzman

The human brain has the power to grow, mold, and adapt to the course of your life in order to best cater to your overall happiness and well-being. This concept is known as neuroplasticity, and occurs when the brain alters its physical structure and changes its circuits so we can better imagine, remember, feel, experience pain, dream, and learn.  Neuroplasticity is similar to the popular expression “it’s like riding a bike.”  Once you acquire a skill, your neurons kick into gear and remember their specific pathways so that each time this skill is performed, they are pre-programmed on what to do.  These pathways strengthen over time as new synapses form maximizing these skills.

Neuroplasticity can be a valuable tool for rewiring how your mind thinks and reacts to certain situations. It can foster increased happiness by retraining your brain to strengthen pathways that promote happiness as an alternative to worry or stress in light of certain situations.  The activities that you choose to do can alter the structure of your brain.  For example, if you are stuck in a funk, doing something positively stimulating for the brain will train it to associate the negative feelings with happier ones.  Your moldable brain will remember the pathways it took to achieve happiness and the next time you experience sadness, it will automatically kick into positivity gear.   Additionally, you can trick your brain into happiness pathways by imagining yourself in your desired mood.  Your brain lacks the capability to distinguish between imagination and reality so if you visualize a desired image of happiness long enough, your brain will believe it to be true and trigger the emotion.

When your brain fills up with neural connections that are relevant to your life, the ones that are unnecessary will begin to deteriorate. Your clever mind can form creative ways to suppress depressive thoughts and shine light on positive thoughts so your unproductive nature fades into the background.  Options that can help you in your quest to mold your brain towards greater happiness include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Mindfulness based cognitive therapy
  • Visualization
  • Relaxation
  • Hypnosis
  • Nurturance
  • Stimulation

If you or someone you know thinks they could benefit from therapy that aids in restructuring their brain to think positively, please contact our psychotherapy offices in New York or New Jersey to talk to one of our licensed professional psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, or psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively, at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 to set up an appointment. For more information, please visit http://www.counselingpsychotherapynjny.com/.

 

Conduct Disorder

Conduct Disorder

By: Leah Flanzman

Conduct disorder is a behavioral disorder seen in children who display behaviors that deviate from societal norms and violate a number of social rules. Conduct disorder will typically present itself before the age of 16, and can have both genetic and environmental influences. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV (DSM IV-TR), this disorder is being increasingly diagnosed in more and more children throughout the United States. In the past few years, prevalence rates of children exhibiting symptoms of conduct disorder skyrocketed to as high as 10%.

Conduct disorder is typically divided into two types, childhood onset and adolescent onset, which are distinguished from one another by the age at which symptoms begin appearing. Childhood onset conduct disorder is diagnosed before 10 years of age, and adolescent onset is diagnosed if the symptoms arise after 10 years of age. Childhood onset is believed to be the more serious condition between the two and more resistant to treatment

The symptoms of conduct disorder can be broken down into four main categories. A child or adolescent is likely to have conduct disorder if they consistently display aggressive conduct, deceitful behavior, destructive behavior, or a violation of rules. Examples of aggressive conduct can include intimidating or bullying other children, physically harming people or animals with malicious intentions, or using a weapon. Deceitful behavior can be seen through lying, stealing, or breaking and entering.   Individuals will display destructive behaviors by intentionally destroying or vandalizing properties, and individuals will violate rules by skipping school, running away, or prematurely abusing drugs and alcohol.

A distinction lies in how the symptoms of conduct disorder are manifested between the genders, as it is more frequently diagnosed in boys. Boys are more likely to fight, steal, vandalize school property, and break school rules, whereas girls are more likely to lie, run away from home, use drugs, and engage in early sexual activity. Conduct disorder is unique in the fact that it is not always recognized as a mental illness, so treatment is commonly neglected. Early intervention for Conduct Disorder yields the greatest possibility for an improved long-term outcome so if symptoms begin to arise, seeking help immediately can be extremely beneficial.

If you or a person you know is struggling with conduct disorder, it may be beneficial to have them contact a mental health professional and receive therapy for their illnesses. The psychologists, psychiatrists, and therapists at Arista Counseling and Psychiatric Services can help.  Contact the Bergen County, NJ or Manhattan offices at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920.  Visit http://www.acenterfortherapy.com for more information.

Prescription Drugs and Side Effects

Prescription Drugs and their Side Effects

Emily Ramos

The truth of the matter is that many prescription drugs contain side effects. It is hard to predict whether or not an individual will experience side effects, it depends on how their body reacts to the drug. The good thing is that there are steps an individual can take to reduce the risks. If the side effects persist you can speak with your doctor who can prescribe a lower dosage or a different medication. DO NOT stop taking medication if you experience a side effect, always speak with your doctor. They might have to wean you off of the drug instead of stopping all together. Here’s how you can learn about possible side effects and how to avoid them:

  • Before getting prescribed medicine, ask your doctor about possible side effects that may occur. For example, if nausea is a side effect your doctor may recommend that you eat or drink before taking the medication.
  • Once you start taking medication take note of any symptoms that arise and tell your doctor about them. This will give your doctor a better understanding.
  • Other ways to prevent side effects are to make appropriate lifestyle changes. For example: if a medication causes you to gain weight you will have to pay more attention to your nutrition and incorporate exercise plans.

It may take a few trial and errors before your doctor is able to find a medication that works best for you. That is why it is crucial to be honest with your doctor before and after he or she prescribes medication.

If you or a person you know is struggling with medication, it may be beneficial to contact a mental health professional and receive therapy. The psychologists, psychiatrists, and therapists at Arista Counseling and Psychiatric Services can help. Contact the Bergen County, NJ or Manhattan offices at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920. Visit http://www.acenterfortherapy.com for more information.

 

Insomnia

insomnia.jpgInsomnia

Sonya Cheema

A typical adult gets between 7 and 9 hours of sleep a night, but it varies from person to person. Those who struggle to get this amount of sleep may suffer from the sleep disorder, insomnia. Some people may experience acute insomnia, which lasts for a few days or weeks. Others may suffer from chronic insomnia, which can last a month or more. If you suspect you or a loved one has insomnia, look for these symptoms:

  • Difficulty falling asleep at night
  • Waking up during the night
  • Waking up too early
  • Not feeling rested after a night’s sleep
  • Daytime tiredness or sleepiness
  • Irritability, depression, or anxiety
  • Difficulty paying attention, focusing on tasks, or remembering
  • Increased errors or accidents
  • Ongoing worries about sleep

If you or a loved one experience many of these symptoms, it may be wise to seek professional help. If serious enough, insomnia can drastically affect your everyday life. In the meantime, some tips that may help alleviate your insomnia are:

  • Keeping your bed time and wake time consistent day to day
  • Avoid or limit naps
  • Avoid or limit caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine
  • Use your bed only for sleep and sex
  • Create a relaxing night time ritual, such as taking a bath, reading, listening to music, etc.

If you or a person you know is struggling with insomnia, it may be beneficial to contact a mental health professional and receive therapy. The psychologists, psychiatrists, and therapists at Arista Counseling and Psychiatric Services can help. Contact the Bergen County, NJ or Manhattan offices at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920. Visit http://www.acenterfortherapy.com for more information.

 

Source used:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/insomnia/symptoms-causes/syc-20355167

Marijuana Part 1: How does it work?

Marijuana Part 1: How does it work?

Sam Kwok

As the most commonly used illicit drug, marijuana has recently blossomed into an estimated $11 billion-dollar industry. Recently there has been a national shift towards the legalization of the drug, which has caused debates from both ends of the spectrum. But how does marijuana work?

Marijuana’s main psychoactive chemical is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, THC for short.  THC is produced by the cannabis plant and its molecular formula is C21H30O2. Anandamide, a naturally existing molecule in the brain, has the molecular formula C22H27NO2 meaning that the relative molecular weight and size of THC and anandamide are similar. Moreover, the 2 molecules have a similar structural layout which allows THC to imitate anandamide’s effects on the brain.

Anandamide is part of the endocannabinoid (EC) system in the body which helps neurons regulate the release of neurotransmitters- the brains way of sending and retrieving messages. Generally, cannabinoids affect the brain by slowing down the transmission of neurotransmitters. When marijuana is smoked, a large amount of THC enters the lungs and into the bloodstream where it can flow into the brain. THC then bonds to the same receptors anandamide normally would to slow down the activity of certain enzymes which reduces the number of neurotransmitters in the brain. Because anandamide does not naturally occur is large quantities, smoking THC overwhelms the brain, and it is this reaction that gives users that “high” feeling.

The other main chemical compound in marijuana is cannabidiol- known as CBD. CBD has been popularized due to its medicinal effects and much of the medical marijuana platform is built upon the usage it. Some laws allow, medical usage of CBD concentrates, but still consider THC as a schedule I drug. Though its molecular formula is identical to THC, it lacks key functional groups and effects the brain differently. This is why CBD has no psychoactive effects. CBD actually inhibits an enzyme used to activate receptors lowering the psychoactive effects of THC. While THC directly effects the brain by bonding to a receptor, CBD indirectly affects the brain by activating adenosine receptors. These receptors have been linked to having anti-anxiety effects and are known to also release dopamine, a naturally occurring chemical in the brain that is linked to pleasant feelings. CBD also activates serotonin receptors which are linked to benefiting sleep, appetite, anxiety, and depression issues.

Since marijuana is still illegal federally, there has been little research on long term effects on the brain. Several studies have shown that marijuana use during a child’s developing age may have irreversible damaging effects to the brain. Marijuana has also been known to have harmful effects when mixed with other drugs such as alcohol. Users of the drug have also been known to have a higher chance of becoming to addicted to other drugs as marijuana is a gateway drug. However, majority of the research are inconclusive and more research must be done to make definitive conclusions.

If you are struggling with substance abuse or any other kind of addiction, the psychologists, psychiatrists, and therapists at Arista Counseling and Psychiatric Services can help.  Contact the Bergen County, NJ or Manhattan offices at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920.  Visit http://www.acenterfortherapy.com for more information.

 

Negative Stigmas of Mental Illness

Mental Illness and Stigmas

Emily Ramos

When a person is born with a deformity, the source of their disability is obvious. But when someone is mentally ill, there are no obvious physical indicators for their behavior.  A lot of the times people pity those with a clear disadvantage and fear the behavior of those with a mental illness. This can cause someone suffering from a mental health illness to live in fear of embarrassment and humiliation if their condition is found out.

A common misconception people have about those who suffer from mental illness is that they are unpredictable like a ticking time bomb, ready to explode at any second. This portrayal comes from the fact that many who go on shooting sprees happen to also suffer from mental illness. This is a false depiction because not all patients act out in violence; same as how not everyone cries when they are mourning the loss of a loved one.

We have to remember to not stereotype everyone with the same diagnoses as being the same. The 2012 Aurora movie theater shooter, James Holmes, showed signs of depression since middle school and attempted suicide at the age of eleven. What people don’t know is that he also was obsessed with the idea of killing people which led to his violent outburst. Most individuals with depression don’t exhibit the desire to inflict pain on others.

The pressure that a negative stigma creates on an individual in addition to the weight of their illness can be overwhelming and unbearable. The best way to reduce mental health stigmas is to raise awareness and enforce discussions about mental health. Millions of people suffer from mental disorders and just as we treat those who suffer from physical illness with care and emotional support we need to provide care and emotional support to mental health patients.

If you or a person you know is struggling with mental illness, it may be beneficial to contact a mental health professional and receive therapy. The psychologists, psychiatrists, and therapists at Arista Counseling and Psychiatric Services can help. Contact the Bergen County, NJ or Manhattan offices at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920. Visit http://www.acenterfortherapy.com for more information.

Shopping Addiction (Yes, it’s Real)

shopaholic

Sonya Cheema

We are becoming more materialistic than ever now that we’re able to see the daily activities of rich people on social media every day – Kim Kardashian using a skincare regimen that costs more than your rent, Jeffree Star custom painting his Rolls Royce pink, various Instagram-famous models advertising their “favorite” detox tea, etc. It’s no wonder why we always feel the need to buy whatever’s new and trending. Getting caught up in the trends may be fun, but it could also lead to an overload of items you don’t need, debt you can’t repay, and guilt. Shopping addiction is real and should be brought to everyone’s attention, especially now.

Shopping addiction, or shopoholism, is just like any other addiction. The more you buy, the better you feel. Individuals suffering from this will get a “high” when they shop, meaning their endorphins and dopamine are activated, which reinforces their shopping problem. Some signs that a person may be addicted to shopping are:

  • Shopping to ease anxiety, depression, or other negative feelings/emotions
  • Engaging arguments with others about spending
  • Feeling lost without credit cards and/or having withdrawal symptoms without them
  • Purchasing items through credit instead of cash
  • Getting a high after spending money
  • Feeling guilty, ashamed, or embarrassed after spending
  • Lying about how much money was spent
  • Thinking obsessively about money
  • Trying to juggle different accounts and bills to accommodate for more spending

If you recognize a shopping addiction within yourself or someone else, it may be best to seek therapy for yourself or the person, have an intervention for the person, or look up the nearest Debtors Anonymous meeting for additional support.

Some suggestions for what to do in the meantime are to get rid of checkbooks and credit cards, shop with someone else, and find other meaningful ways to spend your time. While these suggestions are crucial to recovery, seeking professional help and receiving therapy may be more beneficial.

If you or a person you know is struggling with shopping addiction, it may be beneficial to contact a mental health professional and receive therapy. The psychologists, psychiatrists, and therapists at Arista Counseling and Psychiatric Services can help. Contact the Bergen County, NJ or Manhattan offices at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920. Visit http://www.acenterfortherapy.com for more information.

 

Source used:

https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/features/shopping-spree-addiction#4

How to Cope with a Loved one Affected by Alcoholism

 

alcoholism

Sonya Cheema

Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) is a chronic relapsing brain disease and is characterized by compulsive alcohol use, loss of control over alcohol intake, and a negative emotional state when not using. If you suspect a loved one has alcoholism, look for these signs:

  • Unusually high tolerance for alcohol
  • Hiding alcohol
  • Isolation/absence from work
  • Irrational moodiness/emotional ups and downs
  • Dangerous behavior
  • Not being able to stop drinking once he/she starts
  • Lying/manipulation

Keep in mind that alcoholism affects 17 million adults in the US, and that it is a disease. Many people with loved ones suffering from alcoholism tend to think that the affected person is purposely ruining his/her life and trying to upset family members. You would not blame someone with cancer for hurting themselves, so treat alcoholism in a similar manner. The best things to do when dealing with someone with alcoholism are:

  • Having honest and open discussions with the person about love and the relationship
  • Getting help from others, including professionals
  • Committing to change. If you have to make boundaries or personal promises, be sure to stick with them.
  • Empowering yourself. Learn about alcoholism so you can have a better understanding of what your loved one is going through
  • Do not enable (ie: giving them money)
  • Offer to take him/her to therapy or Alcoholics Anonymous (12 step) meetings.
  • Lastly, DO NOT blame yourself. You are not responsible for anyone’s disease.

Alcoholism is never easy to deal with, especially when it is affecting someone close to you. The best you can do is follow the suggestions above and remember that it is not your responsibility to cure him/her.

If you or a person you know is struggling with alcohol use disorder, it may be beneficial to contact a mental health professional and receive therapy. The psychologists, psychiatrists, and therapists at Arista Counseling and Psychiatric Services can help. Contact the Bergen County, NJ or Manhattan offices at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920. Visit http://www.acenterfortherapy.com for more information.     

 

Information in this blog post was received from:

https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/alcohol-use-disorders

https://americanaddictioncenters.org/alcoholism-treatment/spouse/

https://www.discoveryplace.info/2016/08/24/the-secrets-to-helping-an-alcoholic-family-member-or-friend/#1526263885900-8943f2ec-6b34

Leaving an Abusive Relationship

By: Emily Ramos

Note: Abuse is not sex-linked. Just as men can abuse women, women can abuse males, and vice-versa. This article applies to everyone who is a victim of abuse.

Why do people stay in abusive relationships if they are unhappy? It is easy to put the blame on victims for choosing to remain with their abuser when you don’t know the extent of what they are going through.  Many times they worry their attacker will do one of the following if they end up leaving:

  • stalk and harass them
  • kill them
  • hold their children hostage
  • kill their pets
  • threaten to commit suicide

It would be easier for someone to leave if they were guaranteed protection from their assailant like a witness protection program. Luckily there are restraining orders that can be filed on behalf of the victim and their loved ones. Here are some helpful tips if you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship:

  1. Make sure you have a strong support system. The more people you have to provide moral and emotional support the more likely you are to follow through with leaving.
  2. Pack your things. Actions speak louder than words, saying you plan to leave is not the same as actually leaving. If you continue to hold off, the situation will only get worse. Abusive relationships never get better and, in some instances, end in death. Taking steps now will improve your chances of being able to escape. If you don’t already have one, open a savings account in your name. Start to put together personal items and important documents that you can leave with a trusted friend and make sure these items won’t get noticed it’s missing.
  3. IF you decide to end the relationship in person, make sure it is done in a public setting. Let your friends know where you are meeting and have someone close by waiting to make sure it all goes according to plan. Also, bring your cellphone and have the number of a local domestic violence shelter on speed dial in case of an emergency.
  4. DO NOT STAY IN CONTACT. Any attempt on the part of your abuser to reach out to you is just their way of manipulating you into taking them back. Agreeing to meet in person is very dangerous.
  5. NEVER assume you’re safe just because you successfully left. Make sure you have a backup plan for every possible scenario that may arise. Avoid participating in the same routines as previously or going to places you previously frequented. Make sure you never do things alone and switch all your social media to private (tell your family and friends to do so as well).
  6. Instead of changing your number, get an alternate number and only give it out to people you trust. Keep your old one and let all calls go straight to voicemail; this will give your abuser the impression that it is still your current number. Save any threatening e-mails, texts, or letters as evidence in case you need to get a restraining order in the future.

By taking the right precautionary steps, you can safely leave your relationship and live a better life.

If you or a person you know is struggling with an abusive relationship, it may be beneficial to have them contact a mental health professional and receive therapy for their illnesses. The psychologists, psychiatrists, and therapists at Arista Counseling and Psychiatric Services can help.  Contact the Bergen County, NJ or Manhattan offices at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920.  Visit http://www.acenterfortherapy.com for more information.